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Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, 5th Printing Hardcover – August 21, 2012
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Congrats to C&C on this great game, with a beautifully done book that is rich with information and color, and very well organized.
Castles and Crusades [C&C] is a fantastic fantasy RPG in itself. This player handbook is very clear -- based on a very clear game. C&C has game-play resolution methods that are as wise and clever as any I have ever seen. For example, much as in older D&D -- there are just six stats, just seven races and just thirteen classes -- in additon, characters can have a few stats as "primary" and the others as "secondary". So, these options, when multiplied, lead to quite a large range of characters -- but based on only a few choices for each type of option. Yet, the stats, races and classes are very well-chosen for game-balance and classcial Medieval-Fantasy richness.
Amazingly, almost all C&C game-play resolution is resolved via a single type of D20 die-roll versus a twenty-point sliding-scale -- based naturally and directly on just one of the six stats -- as modified in a simple way by the other factors. So, C&C has a very rare two-for-one simple richness. But, it is actually three-for-one -- as C&C can make easy usage of many D&D-type resources -- ideas, manuals, modules and worlds -- for fantastic fantasy Swords-and-Sorcery +++
Reccommended for old Ad&D'ers looking to relive the old days...
The game itself is terrific, as a return to a simpler time in rpg's when the game wasn't overly burdened with many, many different mechanics that slow down game play, but don't significantly contribute to story telling or experiencing the imaginary adventure.
In substance, the Siege engine (the authors' name for the near-d&d like structure that the game is based on) is a wonderful mix of First Edition AD&D (the first hardcover books - the first edition of the game to feature the word Advanced in the title), with some modernized D20 mechanics. In a nice mix of new and old, your abilities are all derived from your race and class, but the chance to perform those abilities is derived from your statistics - here is where the Siege engine adds, in my opinion. Each character can choose (based on race and class choice) up to 3 statistics (of the classic six - Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma) to serve as Primary statistics. All abilities that are based on Primary statistics have an additional 30% (+6 on a d20) chance of success over other practitioners of the ability. A player creating a Ranger character might pick Strength and Intelligence as his primary abilities. Another might choose Strength and Dexterity - the two characters will have very different areas of expertise and concentrated focus, even though both are Rangers.
Combat is quick, and straight forward. A quick roll of initiative (on a D10), players and non-players then act in order. Ties are broken by Dexterity bonus. Roll to hit, roll for damage. Spells may involve a resistance roll, or a saving roll. Abilities require a single dice roll. All in all, the combat runs great, and quick. Players are more interested in where their companions are, what the tactical situation of the fight is, and how to gain the upper hand through maneuver and magic, rather than picking just the right feat for the situation.
Having run some sessions (and having a very long history with rpg's in general, and all the versions of D&D in particular), I have to admit that I miss having some sort of skill system. The Non Weapon Proficiency system from First or Second edition AD&D would do nicely, as would the Skills system from Third edition. Feats are (thankfully) absent, as they are the one thing about Third edition that keeps me from liking it (and it's worst aspect, from the point of view of a DM preparing adventures).
Combat in Castles and Crusades runs very smoothly and cleanly, and is over quick, while still having all the round-to-round decision making and tactical choices of a good rpg. Magic is done very well, with a very nice spell list for the different classes, good rules on acquiring spells.
This with the companion volume - Monsters and Treasures Castles And Crusades Monsters & Treasures- makes a great rpg. I have to say, that I am anxiously awaiting the Castle Keepers Guide (now, if I am correct, due out in Autumn 2007). It is supposed to add a lot, and will be twice the size of the Players Handbook. If it adds a skill system, and (apostasy) somewhat more detailed initiative rules, then I will be in seventh heaven. If not, one of the greatest things about Castles and Crusades is that it can very very easily be added to, and I could easily plug in my favorite skill system and initiative rules.